The way we were measuring productivity, even before COVID, was broken, and the pandemic has only accelerated the urgent need for a different yardstick. Customers are more and more demanding, and employees too. Now, post pandemic, there is the opportunity to break from the past.
How do organisations transform to be able to adapt to the needs of customers and attract and retain the best talent? As business opportunities rise, how do they identify them and speed up their ability to capture them? How can they accelerate digitisation and automation and how do they shift their ways of working closer to the customer's needs?
Let us see what stake-holders have to say.
Productivity in the post pandemic world - gaps and barriers
Pre-pandemic, there was mounting performance pressure but diminishing returns in tech, process and transformation changes. Now, post pandemic, the opportunity to break from the past has arisen.
About the gap and barriers that have an adverse effect on the productivity in the post pandemic world, Pramod Bhasin, former President and CEO, Genpact and chairman of online lending platform Clix Capital, participating in the People Matters Workforce Productivity Conference 2022 in the C-Suite panel discussion on ‘New Levers of Productivity’, said there are habits that we have formed that may need to change.
“I am not sure if we have come up with new systems and designs that can allow us to cope with the pressure or to allow us to understand what we are missing and how we will go forward. What we are doing is we are getting inundated with data as opposed to intelligent data. Because of the rise of social media and personal technology, we are now inundated with information, input, data and analytics. Lots of people are feeding us all the time through a variety of gadgets we have, along with very well-defined corporate strategies from companies that make their money, are feeding off us as well. That rising increase of input takes away our time, productivity and ability to think innovatively perhaps,” he says, adding that’s not “technological progress”.
“We thought we have reached this wonderful cure of 'zooming' and access which is all wonderful but the results are clear that productivity has fallen, not risen, as a result of everybody being online. You work more hours, yet productivity has fallen. Interconnectivity, which we all claim to be some kind of Holy Grail, is actually not. We must recognise the myth behind many of these things which is actually becoming very disruptive,” he adds.
Bhasin says there are habits we have formed that may need to change. “The whole range of internet of things and real technology improvement in real productivity hasn’t even started yet. The front-enders progress very well and very fast because of the onset of personal technology but the backend behind all these companies has not really kept its pace. So many of them are still working with a screen that suggests it is automated but with a mountain of errors and issues that hit them all the time,” he adds.
Technology available today can solve the world’s biggest problems in healthcare and education among other sectors but we are at a very early stage of that journey or in a discovery phase on how to become more effective as an enormous amount of productivity has been lost so far, he adds.
Rohit Kapoor, CEO India and South East Asia, OYO, feels many organisations have transitioned very badly from a manual system to a computerised/automated system and that is often worse for productivity than the flexibility that came in the manual system.
“It is almost assumed since it is automated and since it is automated and computerised, it must be ok, however, it often is not,“ he says.
Kapoor says technology should be “benevolent” and make people's lives better not just for people who can afford it but for that at the last mile.
“Contrary to the popular belief that work from home has changed the world, in India work from home is a reality for 5% of the working population. For 95%, there is no such concept of work from home. It is a very elitist concept to say that work from home has fundamentally altered everything. For the person on the street, the only thing that has altered is the loss of business,” he says.
Kapoor feels there is always an improvement opportunity once one takes a lens of improvement in every organisation. “There is a set of levers one can deploy including the computer screen..how simple things like data entry can happen in one screen flow instead of five clicks across five screens. That unlocks 10% productivity,” he says.
“Classically when sales people don’t perform, my simple question always is just giving me a time motion of a typical sales person. It is ancient as a technique but always works. You will find that 20-30% stuff is something which completely nobody should be doing or at least the person should not be doing. Second, productivity, according to me, is pay, if you are paying someone $50,000, is that person doing the job that a $50,000 hand should be doing or where is the stacking coming up,” he adds.
Kapoor added that the systems thinking approach to productivity is always important. “While hiring, I always encourage people to ask what the commute time of a person is like. If they spend three hours travelling, be it in a car, metro or bus, that time is going to go either from their personal life or from office life, both of which are sub-optimal,” he says.
Bhasin says the world is in a very confused place right now.
“A lot of research and experimenting is going into the whole design of how organisations need to work, how should this hybrid model work but we are missing still is that we learnt from other people by talking to them, seeing them, looking at the body language, understanding how they are behaving, looking at intensity, emotions, thoughts, and looking at how teams work. That in my view is an essential part of leadership. We have to rediscover how to do that in today’s world because as of now we are flooding ourselves with data and what we have achieved on the data path journey on a scale of 1 to 10, we are at 1,” he adds.